League One 2011/12 Season Preview

After Wednesday were relegated, Sheffield United couldn’t bare another season without the Steel City Derby, so got themselves relegated. Or something like that. But one of the England’s most famous derbies is back on the calendar, for this season at least. United will be hoping they can bounce back into the Championship. To do that they’ve appointed Danny Wilson, a former Wednesday player and manager who had relegated Swindon into League Two last season. Wilson does have a job on his hands, and the best he can realistically do with United is to try and pinch a play-off place. But what about Megson’s Wednesday? After an indifferent season last year, the other Sheffield club want to return to the Championship. They’ve got some good players aboard like David Prutton, Gary Madine and Giles Coke, but missing out on a permanent switch for Neil Mellor might have cost Megson’s team a place in the automatic promotion slot.

Out of the three teams that were relegated last season, Preston have the best chance of bouncing back up at the first time of asking. They have a manager who can provide the goods when asked. He got Hull City into the Premier League and started off their campaign very well indeed, beating Arsenal 2-1. However, that’s as good as it got at the KC. Brown can instil confidence in the players, and that’s what they need right now. Club captain Ian Ashbee’s been there and seen it all with Phil Brown, so he can be the voice of the manager on the pitch. Players like Conor McLaughlin, Iain Hume and Graham Alexander can flourish at this level, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if Preston will be playing Championship football next season.

I don’t feel that Scunthorpe will have enough to become a force in the league. Ian Baraclough did brilliantly with what modest resources he had in front of him. To keep Scunthorpe in the Championship for as long as he did is an amazing feat. However, he’s gone now, and Alan Knill has to try to emulate what Baraclough did. Although Knill is a good manager, he will need to overhaul most of the squad because Baraclough and Knill play two different types of football, requiring different sorts of players.

The teams that I think will make a charge of the League One title are Brentford, MK Dons and Huddersfield. Huddersfield just missed out on promotion last season, being denied by two late goals in the play-off final against Peterborough. Lee Hughes and his team will have something to prove, and prove it they will. Karl Robinson and his MK Dons are a tough nut to crack and even with the departure of key midfielder Peter Leven to League Two outfit Oxford United, they have the quality in defence with Dean Lewington and the firepower upfront with Dean Bowditch and Sam Baldock to fire them into contention for the League One crown. A surprise package I’ve tipped is Brentford. Looking through their squad, they haven’t got a star player like most clubs do, but they have a strong unit of players that isn’t easy to beat. Uwe Rösler will make sure of that.

Four clubs have come up from League Two. They are Wycombe, Chesterfield, Bury and Stevenage; who achieved promotion in their first season in the Football League after promotion from the Conference. A team to look out for in that bunch is Stevenage. Not because they could achieve their third promotion on the bounce, but because of a dirty tactic that I will now warn you of. When your team plays Stevenage, wait for about 20 minutes to pass and there will be a Stevenage player down on the floor, apparently injured. In that period Graham Westley likes to have ‘quarter time’. It’s like half time, but with more breaks. In the ‘quarter time’ break Westley likes to give players a drink and a break and he likes to talk to players and alter tactics. All League Two fans are glad to see the back of Stevenage and their blatant cheating.

Wycombe, Chesterfield and Bury have solid foundations and will look to be challenging at the top of the league in a few seasons time. All three don’t look in danger of being relegated, but the other newly promoted club Stevenage are going to struggle. Stevenage aren’t a technically gifted side, more a physical one. They’ll be up for the challenge, but I doubt they’ll be good enough to stay up.

Tranmere, Notts County, Walsall and Oldham were flirting with relegation last season, and there is nothing to suggest that any of these clubs will have a change in fortunes this campaign. Carlisle, Bournemouth, Charlton, Colchester, Exeter, Hartlepool, Leyton Orient, Rochdale and Yeovil are the teams that I think will have a quiet and somewhat uneventful midtable season, with each team wanting to head in the right direction and push for promotion next term.   

Josh McGrillen

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